Cape Town - Rafael Nadal is considering delaying his return to tennis until the start of the clay court season after a recurring hip injury forced him out of the Mexican Open.
The Spaniard was scheduled to make his return this week following the injury that forced him out of the Australian Open during his quarter-final clash against Marin Cilic.
But the same troublesome hip problem flared up again during training in Mexico, and he had to make the tough decision to withdraw from the tournament.
Nadal plans to remain in Mexico to discover the full extent of the injury - an iliopsoas of his right leg - before deciding on his participation at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which starts on March 8, and the Miami Open the following week.
The Spaniard could be forced to nurse the injury and prioritise the clay court season, however, and admits that option is on the table.
"It's not a time to make drastic decisions," he said, according to El Espanol.
"I will see what my next step is. Indian Wells would be a great goal for me, but today my only goal is to know the extent of the injury. If it's for Indian Wells, fantastic; if it's for Miami, fine; if it will not be for the ground (clay court) tour.
"The doctors have told me that it is impossible to play, regardless of whether it hurts. There is a significant risk of increasing the injury and I have no choice. It's a hard blow. I was well prepared to play and I had hopes of doing something important here."
Nadal's hopes of retaking the World No 1 spot from Roger Federer in the near future have taken a significant blow, as he will lose all of the 300 points he had to defend in Mexico from his run to the 2017 final.
More worryingly, the decision to pull out in Mexico marks the fifth tournament in succession Nadal has failed to complete, after he also withdrew from his campaigns at the Paris Masters, the ATP World Tour Finals, the Brisbane International and the Australian Open.
Meanwhile, four of the world's top five men's players - Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka - are now dealing with chronic, recurring injuries.